Switzerland’s largest and in terms of football titles richest city hosted the 17th international network meeting of the “Queer Football Fanclubs” (QFF) from 04th – 06th September 2015.
About 80 delegates of 24 German, three Swiss and one Dutch fan club where happy to welcome representatives of the new QFF members „Football Fans against Homo-phobia” (FFaH) and “football against racism everywhere” (fare), as well as inter-national guests from the “European Gay & Lesbian Sports Federation” (EGLSF) and the English LGBT alliance „Pride in Football„ in their midst. Their new and different perspective combined with fresh ideas turned out to be a big asset for the conference and their valuable insights initiated many fruitful discussions.
But not only football fans are committed to tackling homophobia and discrimination. As Mayor Corine Mauch emphasized in her welcome speech, tolerance, solidarity and equality are equally held high in the city of Zurich.
“There is no place for homophobia, racism, violence & disrespect in any sports or stadium, be it at professional or recreational level.
This is exactly what you advocate and I support your cause wholeheartedly.
I hold it with the former Argentine football player and coach César Luis Menotti:
It is completely wrong to think that football has to be apolitical.
No other sport reaches more people worldwide.
If football with its popularity can bring about change in society for the better,
it should do so.”
The „Letzi Junxx„, the local queer fan club of FC Zurich, proved to be great hosts and skilful organisers. We were warmly welcomed and all members went out of their way to make our stay enjoyable.
Thanks to their seemingly tireless commitment the first-class conference was financed almost entirely by generous sponsors like the city and the FC Zurich, so that the international participants did not have to suffer from the unbelievable high prices in Switzerland. Merci & Chapeau!
The early arrivals started on Friday afternoon with a football-related city and stadium tour and met the rest of the participants for a sociable drink and hearty welcome dinner in the museum of FC Zurich, which is run (and was initiated) by fans. The club can look back on 119 years of colourful history full of anecdotes and can even boast about its own comic: Stan the Hooligan, the most hooliganistic fan of FC Zurich.
Afterwards, the delegates diligently devoted themselves to the very important social exchange and discussed all and sundry until the early morning hours.
On Saturday, the world football governing body FIFA opened its doors to QFF as first alliance of LGBT football fan groups ever.
FIFA’s Head of CSR Federico Addiechi & Gerd Dembowski, CSR Programme Manager for Equality and Anti-Discrimination, participated actively in the conference & took part in the discussions & workshops. Both gave valuable insights & tips, were open & receptive to suggestions as well as constructive criticism.
Gerd Dembowski confirmed its estimates from the workshop “Tackling homophobia and discrimination in football – The controversy of Mega Sporting Events” of the FSE Fans Congress in Belfast (#EFFC2015) and emphasised again the crucial role of communication to and the exchange with the involved parties. He needs our input to be able to act on it and raise the awareness of LGBT-issues and violations of LGBT-rights within the FIFA and to inform its employees about our activities.
The workshops in Zurich focussed on the future of QFF, public and self image, vision and the expansion of the international network in the world of LGBT sports.
Their message to FIFA & the world of football was painted on banners in a creative brainstorming session, to easily transport it to the media and multipliers later.
And even though many of the statements were very FIFA-critical, the various ideas of the participants could be unreservedly discussed with the FIFA representatives.
In the eyes of the international workshop group, it was for example particularly important that FIFA prioritises the concept of „Social Fair Play“ and lives up to its own statutes by making the observance of human rights mandatory selection criteria for all major decisions.
They were encouraged by FIFA’s Head of CSR Frederico Addiechi in this matter, who regards „Social Fair Play“ as an increasingly important focal point of FIFA politics.
Only FIFA’s Head of communications, Alexander Koch, put the emphasis of his speech on „self-promotion“ and claimed, that not a single FIFA employee is in any way responsible for FIFAgate and FIFAcorruption… *harrumph*
He scored brownie points for his clever strategy full of likable self-irony & entertaining presentation though.
Following this, Claudia Krobitzsch presented the manifold LGBT activities of the fare-network in the last year, in which it also cooperates with FFaH.
On a happy sidenote, Fortuna Dusseldorf was mentioned twice as positive example, particularly appreciated was #F95 commitment to #RefugeesWelcome (#HeimatFuerAlle).
Afterwards, a representative of the QFF member „Andersrum auf Schalke„, invited the participants to the next QFF conference in spring 2016 in Gelsenkirchen, which will be generously sponsored by the Bundesliga club.
Earlier this year, the queer fans were happy and proud to welcome the one and only Gerald Asamoa as an honorary member of her fan club in their midst (#StehtAuf).
Next, the Swiss QFF fan clubs presented the new prevention project „Football and Homosexuality in Switzerland“, which they developed in cooperation with fare Swiss for the Swiss Football Association. It demonstrates in an impressive way, what great results a constructive cooperation on an equal footing between fan initiatives and organizations can deliver.
The newly elected QFF council had also lots to report to the General Assembly and presented the first results of the working groups, which were newly established at the prior QFF conference in Dusseldorf in Spring 2015 as well.
The QFF members voted in unison for a new logo and corporate design as well as the introduced concept for the relaunch of the QFF website and forum. The now (in the respective club’s colors) available new QFF T-shirts were also met with much applause.
In a landmark vote on the fundamental nature and orientation of the QFF, the delegates saw themselves clearly first and foremost as active football fans, whose love for her sports and clubs is the base and motivator of all their activities.
Of course the QFF members will be naturally always tackling homophobia and all other forms of discrimination, but they do not see themselves as LGBT activists who also go to football, but as football fans with LGBT background.
Concerning critical issues in fan politics & culture, the QFF will stand in solidarity side by side with the other major fan alliances or initiatives (#UnitedForTheCause).
Finally, the QFF presented Gerd Dembowski symbolically an open letter to the members of the FIFA Executive Committee, in which they blisteringly criticise the awarding of the World Cup to countries with statutory discrimination & prosecution of minorities like Russia and Qatar.
FIFA has yet to demonstrate any real commitment to ensuring mega events are not built on a foundation of exploitation and abuse. And only if FIFA ensures that any revised criteria for bidding for the World Cup has human rights and transparency at the heart of all stages of the process, the world football governing body can live up to its social responsibilities.
The QFF therefore ask FIFA to make the observance of human rights (Article 3 of the FIFA Statutes) a mandatory award criterion in the selection of future World Cup hosts.